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Bradley continues his march to Canastota

By Michael Montero: Saturday night Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley scored a unanimous decision victory over previously undefeated Jessie Vargas at the StubHub Center, just outside of Los Angeles. HBO Championship Boxing, which is having an outstanding year so far, celebrated the broadcast of their thousandth bout. For Bradley, who won the 2013 fight of the year against Ruslan Provodnokov at this same venue, he added another exciting victory to his ledger. It’s been a hardscrabble career, nothing has come easy, but Bradley has earned respect from fans and seems ever closer to obtaining his goal of joining the international boxing hall of fame one day.

Bradley began his professional career in 2004, and just 4 years later in his 22nd pro bout he travelled to England to face titlist Junior Witter on his home turf. In a tough, physical affair (he just doesn’t know any other way); Bradley won a split decision to bring a title back to the USA. The following year he unified titles with a win over power-punching Kendall Holt. After beating former lightweight champion Nate Campbell and taking “0’s” from Lamont Peterson and Luis Carlos Abregu, Bradley defeated Devon Alexander in a highly-anticipated fight just outside of Detroit. Next the Coachella Valley native essentially retired former titlist Joel Casamayor, dropping him 3 times en route to an 8th round TKO. At this point Bradley was on pound for pound lists, and was set up for a big PPV payday against Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao. This was the fight that would make Bradley a household name, but for all the wrong reasons.

In an event billed as “Perfect Storm”, Bradley (28-0, 12KO) and Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38KO) fought at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on June 9th, 2012. Although the Filipino was coming off a controversial decision win in his third match with Juan Manuel Marquez the previous November, he entered the ring as a significant favorite. The fight itself was a bit of a disappointment as Pacquiao seemed to be merely going through the motions. Although he wasn’t very accurate with his punches, “Pacman” threw in combination, set the pace and seemed to control the distance throughout. In typical Bradley fashion, he was faced with adversity as he hurt his ankle in the early rounds and was in visible pain, yet fought through it with grit and determination. As the final bell sounded it seemed the scorecards were a foregone conclusion. Pacquiao looked fresher and more confident, and punch stats had him throwing and landing more. Yet the final scores were announced and to the boxing world’s shock, Bradley won via split decision. The overwhelming majority of the media had Pacquiao clearly taking 9-10 rounds and felt the decision was among the worst for a high-profile bout in boxing history (this writer was prompted to pen an article entitled “Pacquiao-Bradley: Is the Boxing Apocalypse Upon Us?”, which can still be found online). Through no fault of his own, Timothy Bradley felt the wrath of disgruntled boxing fans over the ensuing months.

Bradley returned in 2013 determined to win boxing fans back. Russia’s Ruslan Provodnikov was one of the most feared fighters in boxing at the time, and he lived up to that reputation by hurting Bradley with murderous shots throughout their twelve rounds of action at the StubHub Center on March 16th. Even though he was all but out on his feet multiple times and even dropped in the final round, somehow “Desert Storm” was able to weather the ‘storm’ and not only survive, but defeat the “Siberian Rocky” in the eventual Fight of the Year. It was typical Timothy Bradley, fighting on nothing more than instinct, determination and grit. His outstanding conditioning and mental strength pushed him through where others would falter (see Provodnikov-Alvarado). Later that year he would go on to defeat Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez via split decision, which should have been unanimous as Bradley had decisively controlled the bout.

2014 was a difficult year for Bradley; taking his first official loss in a rematch with Pacquiao and being robbed of a victory in a tough fight against Diego Gabriel Chaves, which was ruled a draw. And then we come to this past Saturday, where an honest blunder from ref Pat Russell overshadowed another solid performance from Bradley. After clearly taking 8 of the first 11 rounds, Bradley ate a massive shot from Vargas in the closing seconds that would have flattened most fighters, yet was somehow able to stay upright. Russell thought he heard the final bell and signaled the end of the fight with a few seconds officially remaining on the clock. This upset Vargas supporters in the crowd, who booed loudly in the aftermath. But the reality is that Bradley wasn’t going anywhere. He was clinching Vargas in the closing seconds and seemed to be clear mentally. Based on what we’ve seen from him in his fights with Provodnikov, Pacquiao and others, there is no reason to assume the extra 4 seconds would have made any difference in the outcome of his win over Vargas.

But that just seems to be how it goes for Bradley, the hardscrabble scrapper who has carved out a terrific career in a loaded division with little punching power. A good guy outside the ring and a true professional, Bradley has simply out willed opponents who were supposed to beat him on paper. His wife and manager Monica has made it clear that their goal is to get out of the sport in the next year or so, but not before clearly putting their stamp on a hall of fame worthy career. At this point I don’t see how anyone could deny that Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley deserves to be added to the list of legends in Canastota five years after he hangs up the gloves.

Questions, comments, hate mail – you know what to do. Twitter/Youtube/Instagram/Facebook: @MonteroOnBoxing

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